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Cell phone-distracted accident stats may be underreported

People in New York know that it's illegal to drive while using a hand to hold a cell phone to their ear or, possibly worse, send a text. Everyone knows the law, but it certainly doesn't stop some people. Distracted driving has become something of an epidemic across the U.S., but some people may not fully grasp the danger the New York laws are designed to stop because car accidents caused by cell phone use are widely under-reported in the state.

A recent study by the National Safety Council showed that cell phone use while driving was responsible for many more deaths than were reported in 2011. Of the 180 fatal crashes where cell phone use seemed to be a cause or contributing factor, only half of them were reported as cell phone-related in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database.

New York was no exception to the underreporting problem; in 2011 there was only one reported cell phone involved fatal wreck in the entire state. The issue stems in part from the way in which New York police report accidents. In Tennessee, for example, there were 93 cell phone-related fatal crashes in 2011, which is disproportionately high when compared to a populous state like New York.

The underreporting may undermine the actual dangers of distracted driving, possibly leading to more car crashes when people scoff at the laws designed to protect everyone on the road. People who are injured by a distracted driver should enlist the help on an experienced personal injury attorney, who can help prove the distracted driver's negligence and hold them accountable for the mental and physical damage they cause.

Source: Portland Press Herald "Distracted driving: Crash data lets phones off the hook," May 8, 2013

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